Which restroom should a transgender student be able to use? The question has generated controversy in rural Stafford County, Virginia, where the school board has now voted to prohibit a transgender elementary student from using the restroom associated with their self-identified gender.
The child at the center of the issue -- a student at Hartwood Elementary School -- was initially allowed to use the restroom of the gender that the student identifies with. But some parents began to complain, and so did some political leaders, sending out blast emails urging supporters to push the Stafford board to reverse course.
The decision came after 20 speakers gathered Tuesday night to talk about the issue, including a man who says he's the transgender child's father.
"We've lived it," he said. "And we respect every other mother and father in here.... I only implore all of us... that we don't trade understanding for fear...."
Tenth grader Gavin Grimm, along with the ACLU, is challenging the Gloucester County School Board’s decision barring him from the boys’ restroom and locker room.
“There have been some parents in the community, or rather adults, that have had a problem with this,” said Grimm. “I’m fighting for my rights to use the correct restroom.”
But most speakers echoed the view of Russ Moulton, who formed a group called Save Our Schools to press the board to return a traditional bathroom policy.
"The vast number of parents were upset their children were sharing the bathroom with a child of an opposite sex, and many of the children expressed that they were feeling awkward about it," Moulton said.
After a closed session, the board voted unanimously just after midnight Wednesday to endorse a new plan, in which the transgender student will use either the bathroom that corresponds with their gender at birth, or an alternate facility, like a staff bathroom.
Stafford parent Lisa Burns said that's the wrong decision.
"Kids should be accepted for who they are, and I think in this time, people need to get over same-sex marriage, transgender, all that stuff," Burns said.
But Stafford resident Donna Carlton, whose children are now out of school, thinks the board got it right this time.
"I think we're kind of going a little too far with politically correct things and the child should use an alternative restroom," Carlton said.
The superintendent and school board chair declined to comment on camera, but Chair Nanette Kidby issued the following written statement: "The Stafford County School Board struggled with this difficult decision regarding the transgender student at Hartwood Elementary School. The reasoning behind our decision was that the legal landscape on these issues is unclear at this point. We await further guidance from our state delegation. We are attempting to ensure that the needs of all of our students are being addressed."